Friday, 29 August 2014

Kids and Guns

Growing up on a farm in Northern Alberta I learned to drive and to shoot at an early age. I'm sure that what I was allowed to do probably broke one law or another, but I'm going to make the case that I am better off for having parents that taught me how to use potentially dangerous tools.

My dad didn't throw me into a truck at the age of 12 and say, "Take her for a rip down the highway." He did however sit me on his lap while we drove on an open farm field and let me steer. After I got the hang of steering he showed me how to work the pedals and I started driving around the open field with him sitting beside me, "Woo-Hoo!" By the time I was 14 I was driving the farm truck within the confines of our family farm, contributing to the work and feeling pretty good about myself.

My education with guns wasn't appreciably different. My dad didn't give me a high powered rifle as a 10 year old but I did get a pump action BB gun to shoot pop cans with. Over time as I demonstrated safety and gained my parents trust I graduated to a pellet gun, then a .22 caliber rifle and as an older teen I was shooting a high powered hunting rifle. I had a lot of adventures in the woods, gun in my hand and loyal dog Bernie by my side.

I always felt like my parents did me a great service by teaching me to use these tools and building up my confidence. They aren't irresponsible people, on the contrary I'd say what they did was very responsible. I was privileged to have been able to learn and own these tools as part of my childhood and I wish that more people had the opportunity to live on a farm and learn to use these tools. I suspect that maybe people wouldn't feel so powerless in their lives as adults if they had been able to experience the kind of freedom, responsibility, accomplishment and personal power that comes from learning and mastering these tools.

I have teenage children and while they have missed out by not growing up on a farm I have endeavoured to do my best as their dad and teach them how to drive and how to shoot. In the same way my dad helped me along in safe baby steps I've helped them along. Driving will obviously make the lives of my kids a whole lot better but it may not be clear to a lot of people how spending time at the range or in the wild learning how to shoot can also make their lives better.

My party posted a picture of my daughter and I (with her permission) at the range to promote the idea that firearms ownership and education is an important part of living in a free society. Immediately I was hit with a series of ugly and disgusting tweets by someone who thought I deserved to be shot by my daughter and that it would be completely hilarious. This wasn't a one tweet knee jerk reaction, this was a tirade of increasingly ugly hate levelled at me and from my perspective more at my daughter. If my daughter accidentally killed me with her car or a gun its not me who would suffer horribly but her.
My 16 year old daughter and I at the range. Shoots one bullet per trigger pull and holds 5 bullets total. Notice her trigger discipline and sense of confidence.

It was shocking to experience that level of vitriol over what I considered to be an innocent and happy day at the range. I can understand that guns are shocking and scary to people that have never been around them or used them, and Hollywood certainly doesn't help paint a realistic picture of violence and responsible gun ownership, but this issue calls for level headed, objective consideration.

Critics of gun ownership and self-defence rights portray gun owners as nuts who imagine an invasion or doomsday scenario is coming, or that someday they may have to rise up and water the tree of liberty with blood! That is not the case with me. I benefited from learning how to shoot and so has my daughter.

Experiencing first hand how powerful a gun in you own hands actually is or how powerful your own body is when using martial arts techniques under the instruction of a mature and knowledgeable instructor is valuable education on many levels. In my experience kids who receive this type of instruction become less infatuated with violence, respect their own personal power, gain confidence in themselves, understand the need for discipline, walk taller, and project a sense of power and humility that makes them both far less likely to be a bully and far less likely to be the victim of a bully.

My kids are almost adults now. I've taught them how to drive and how to shoot. I don't expect my kids will own guns anytime soon and that is fine with me, its their choice and gun ownership isn't for everyone, it comes with certain responsibilities and obligations that cut into time and resources. I've done my part to create responsible and productive citizens of the world. I trust my kids aren't going to kill anybody if they choose to drive or shoot because they have received responsible education in these matters and society will be better off because of it.

I'd like to address the tragedy of the 9 year old girl who accidentally killed her instructor with an Uzi set to fully automatic. There were a number of lapses of judgement in this case that should not have occurred. I would certainly not be comfortable putting an automatic weapon in the hands of a 9 year old. Pellet guns and .22 caliber single action rifles are far more appropriate at that age when it comes to fire arms education in my opinion. It is akin to allowing a 9 year old to drive a pickup truck in an open field by themselves and then getting run over by them. Go-karts or small ATV's are a better place to start kids learning to handle motorized vehicles.

When kids run-over and kill siblings or parents with vehicles it is usually framed as a tragic accident. There aren't hateful diatribes against automobile enthusiasts, or calls to ban automobile ownership for everyone except government employees. There aren't people expressing joy when automobile owners are killed by their own vehicle. This tells me that most of the rhetoric around guns is purely driven by emotion and ignorance.

The fact that Switzerland has a military grade rifle in almost every home and Chicago is a legislated gun-free zone ought to tell you at the very least that guns aren't the root cause of violence. I'm not a gun enthusiast, I don't enjoy shooting the way some people do, I go to the range like I go the gym - begrudgingly and not enough. I do recognize that societies tend to be better off when good people are armed and trained. In fact I consider it a requisite for a just and free society for good guys to be able to wield protective force against aggressors and I think that the more people that receive the kind of education my kids and I received, the more civil a society becomes.

People who decry gun ownership and criticize me for educating my kids fail to understand the ways in which they hypocritically contribute to a more violent and uncivil society. They have no problem asking for a state to be an umbrella corporation whose sole monopoly purpose and only tool is using force against its citizen. They fail to understand that every law they cry for from this umbrella corp is a threat to shoot someone dead for non-compliance. Think this is a hyperbolic statement? You can test it by simply disobeying any inane law and refusing to obey law enforcement. Will they start to escalate force to get compliance or will they leave you alone? If you match their escalation of force with equal and opposite protective force how do you think it will end?

The irony of the anti-gun crowd is that they can't have the society they themselves want without some individuals threatening to use guns against other individuals. They are actually very pro-gun violence, as long as the violence comes from the state. I don't think it is an accident that proponents of big government also tend to be people who have never received training or exposure to firearms. This is why they are so cavalier about asking other people from the state to use firearms to aggress against their fellow citizens. If you want to have the state use force on your behalf you should at least have the integrity to be willing to pick up the gun yourself and point it at the people doing the thing you hate. People who have grown up shooting guns tend to understand the serious power they represent and respect that power by not demanding others use it on their behalf.

The anti-gun crowd quick to decry the militarization of police never having considered that perhaps its dangerous to be a cop because of the policies they ask police to enforce, that perhaps advocating for big government is exactly what is leading to police militarization. They never consider that perhaps continuing to ask law enforcement to use more and more force against people they signed up to protect is creating the very conditions they fear so much.

Libertarians believe that force ought to be used ONLY protectively and not to control and force people and so we are the only party that can claim to consistently be anti-gun violence. We only ask government to do what we ourselves have the right and the willingness to do - protect individuals from aggression.


  1. Hey Tim, nice article. It's sad how violent and uninformed BabyBush was about a topic he disagrees with. Speaking of gun safety and laws in Canada, how do you feel about bullet limits in magazines? Do you feel it's sensible, or useless? Thanks.

  2. I grew-up learning to operate horsepower and firepower on the family farm. I started on the yard tractor and today I am a tractor-trailer driver over the highways. At 13 years old I pulled a loaded horse trailer behind a 3 speed on the tree pick-up truck while my dad rode shotgun. My first rifle was a cork popper and I was trained on a BB gun, a .177 pellet air rifle, a .22 single bolt action, a 30-30 Winchester, a 410 and a 12 gauge shotguns. At 16 years old, I went partridge hunting with my dad an uncle. My uncle was a game warden with the ministry of natural resources. We followed approved safe hunting practices. Today, I have provided horsepower and firepower tools and training to my own teenagers. They do respect the power and responsibilities attached with such complimentary human power. It is human power that has produced firepower and horsepower technologies to facilitate our human development. But it is also human power that has produced terrible deeds with these tools. Many people are afraid of automobiles and weapons that they wish not to own and operate these tools for themselves. I am in complete agreement with them not to own these tools for themselves but I disagree with them imposing their decisions for themselves upon others. Horsepower and firepower tools are only private property and private property belongs in the hands of private individuals who freely choose to own, possess and operate their tools according to safe practices.

  3. Most of the parents are buying guns for their 5-10 years kids, but me at 16. My dad told me that if I want one, I have to get a job and earn it!